Woman waiting for manicure and tools on table, closeup with space for text
Bath & Beauty

Why Press-On Nails Are The Best & How To Easily Apply Them

Can’t make it to the salon, but still need those salon-ready accessories? Here are the best at-home press-on nail options.

February 03, 2022

A person’s hands are one of the first things we notice about them. 

They can leave a lasting impression, which is why it’s so important to make sure your nails look fashionable, too.

But what happens when your favorite nail salon isn’t open? How do you make sure your nails look nice and reflect your personality? 

In cases like these, press-on nails are always an option. Their glamorous appearance combined with their easy application process means that you might end up preferring them over a salon visit.

Here’s a quick explanation of the different kinds of manicures, what press-on nails are, and how to make a press-on nail manicure last.


Lana Langlois - stock.adobe.com

Different types of nails, and why press-on nails are the best

Although this article is all about the best stick-on nails, we want to stress that other at-home grooming options exist. After all, if you have a beautiful set of natural nails, applying some nail polish with a steady hand can give you excellent results. 

Other manicure options to choose from:

  • Classic manicures. The most classic manicure is a good-old-fashioned coat of nail polish at a salon setting. Think solid colors for the base coats, tasteful french manicures, and trimming cuticles, among other quick fixes. You’re working with what you’ve got, but you’re making it look the best.

  • Gel manicures. With gel nails, your liquid polish is hardened under a UV light, allowing base coats to last three times as long. Unfortunately, this means someone must remove the gel manicure in a professional setting. If you try to peel the polish off yourself, it’ll strip and destroy your nails.

  • Acrylic nails. A combination of your real nail beds and false tips, acrylics are what most people think of when they hear the words “fake nails.” They’re usually long, in your face, and very flashy. These nails are usually applied in the salon. 

  • Press-on nails. Do you want the look of acrylic nails without the salon setting or price tag? Would you rather fix your DIY glue-on nails at home? Then press-on nails are your best option.


How to apply press-on nails

We have excellent news: Applying press-on nails is increasingly easy. You’ll find two ways to accomplish this task: the traditional glue method or adhesive strips. 

For the glue method, you’ll need:

  • A nail set.

  • Nail glue.

  • Nail file.

  • Tweezers.

  • A clear base coat of nail polish.

Most nail kits come with some or all of these supplies. You should follow the instructions included in the package, as different nail sets may have unique drying times or recommendations for preparation. 

However, the general advice for press-on nails is:

  1. Clean and buff your natural nails before application. 

  2. Prep your nails with alcoholic swabs to remove bacteria or dust. (Optional: Apply a layer of clear nail polish to aid in the removal process.)

  3. Apply the nail glue.

  4. Press those nails into place. They should be against your cuticle, but they aren’t inserted into the nail bed like acrylics.

  5. Use a nail file to adjust the length and shape. 

Instead of this, you may have adhesive strips so that you need no glue for acrylic nail application. To learn how to put fake nails on without glue:

  1. Follow the same buffing and cleaning process. (Optional: Apply a layer of clear nail polish to aid in the removal process.)

  2. Open the adhesive strip.

  3. Press those nails into place.

Most press-ons also come with a certain nail shape or nail art on them, but you can reshape or repaint them yourself before or after application. (Before is probably easier.)


Anton - stock.adobe.com

How can I make press-on nails last longer?

How long should press-on nails last? It all depends on the brand, so check the label before purchasing. Some artificial nails will only last a couple of days, while others last several weeks. Similarly, some press-on nails are also reusable, while others are garbage after one wear. High quality nails will last longer. 

Many factors affect the longevity of your press-on nail set, but there are a few ways you can maintain your manicure overall:

  1. Be careful with your hands. Simple movements like getting dressed, grabbing your keys, or typing on your phone should be fine. But activities that require strong, forceful movements can make a false nail pop off. Need to lift heavy boxes? See if you can delegate that task to avoid snapping a nail. 

  2. Examine your nails for damage. Like any hygiene, you’ll see better results if you engage in daily upkeep. Each morning when you wake up, examine your press-on nails for loose or lifting surfaces. Apply drops of glue where necessary, moisturize your cuticles, and buff or trim the nails if you notice them turning ragged. 

  3. Don’t submerge your hands in water for long periods. By this, we mean taking baths, swimming in pools, or participating in other water-based activities. Showers are fine, and so is washing your face. Wearing gloves while cleaning the dishes should also be fine. However, soaking your hands in warm water is actually how you remove false nails, as it dissolves the glue. So unless you want those nails gone, avoid this activity at all costs. 

For hygienic reasons, you shouldn’t wear your fake nails for more than 2-3 weeks at a time. 

Tips for press-on nails, and how to remove them

The beauty of press-on nails is that the removal process is simple, unlike many salon-based alternatives. Although stick-on nails can damage your natural nail beds during the process, you can avoid this by applying a single layer of clear polish beneath the glue before application. This way, when you remove the nails, the adhesive will peel off the polish — not the healthy surface of your nail bed.

For the removal itself, you have two options: warm, soapy water or an acetone-based nail polish remover.

For warm water:

  1. Fill up a small bowl with soapy water, preferably hand soap. 

  2. Place your hands in the bowl for about 10 minutes to let those nails soak. 

  3. As your nails soak, gradually wiggle them back and forth on your fingertips to loosen the adhesive further.

  4. When 10 minutes are up, remove your hands from the water. Peel the nails off.

  5. If you can’t peel them off, soak your hands for a little longer, or apply cuticle oil to loosen the glue.

  6. After the press-on nails are removed, engage in a little aftercare to ensure your hands stay healthy. Remove leftover adhesive, apply more cuticle oil, trim your natural nails where they’ve gone ragged, and moisturize your hands. 

For nail polish remover:

  1. Fill up a small bowl with nail polish remover. It should be deep enough that you can dip your fingers into it easily.

  2. Lower your nails into the nail polish remover. Let them soak for a few minutes.

  3. Remove your hands and wiggle the press-on nails to see if they are ready to come off.

  4. If they aren’t loose enough, soak them further. 

  5. Once the bonds dissolve, gently peel off the nails. Go slowly. 

  6. After removing the false nails, wash your hands in warm, soapy water and heavily moisturize them. Acetone-based nail polish removers can severely irritate or dry out your skin.

If you need a few more supplies for your DIY nail design, always remember: Gopuff can deliver those supplies straight to your door, keeping your home salon stocked.

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